Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Velasquez v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd.
Jose Velasquez, as a condition of probation, had entered a residential rehabilitation program sponsored by The Salvation Army and was injured while working in its warehouse. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) denied Velasquez's claim for workers’ compensation benefits, determining that Velasquez was not employed by either The Salvation Army or the County of Santa Barbara (the County). The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District held that The Salvation Army is statutorily excluded from being an employer for workers’ compensation purposes under section 3301 of the Labor Code, and affirmed the Board’s decision in that respect. However, the Court found that the record was inadequately developed during the administrative proceedings to determine whether the County was Velasquez’s employer. Therefore, the Court annulled the Board’s decision as to the County and remanded the matter for further consideration. View "Velasquez v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
Argueta v. Worldwide Flight Services, Inc.
In the case before the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight, the plaintiff, Eunices Argueta, appealed against the judgment in favor of her former employer, Worldwide Flight Services, Inc. Argueta had sued Worldwide for sexual harassment and retaliation, alleging that she was sexually harassed by a certain Mr. Nguyen, an employee of Worldwide, and that the company had failed to prevent the harassment.The case arose when several employees working under Argueta lodged complaints against her for bullying, harassment, and other misconduct. Subsequently, Argueta filed a complaint against Nguyen, accusing him of sexual harassment. The company investigated the allegations and issued a "Letter of Concern" to Nguyen, imposing certain conditions on his continued employment.Argueta eventually resigned, citing a hostile work environment. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Worldwide, and Argueta's motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict were denied by the trial court. Argueta appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the substance of the complaints made against her by other employees.The appellate court agreed with Argueta, finding that the admission of the substance of the complaints was prejudicial. The court ruled that such evidence had little relevance to Argueta's claims of sexual harassment and was highly prejudicial to her case, potentially causing the jury to view her as a bad person. The court thus reversed the trial court's denial of her motion for a new trial. The court did not find it necessary to consider her motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. View "Argueta v. Worldwide Flight Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Jones v. Regents of the University of California
Plaintiff-appellant Rose Jones, an employee of the Regents of the University of California (the University), was injured while riding her bike on University grounds on her way home from work. She and her husband filed suit against the University. The University moved for summary judgment, arguing inter alia, that Jones was limited to workers’ compensation under that system’s “exclusivity” rule. Although an employee’s commute was generally outside the workers’ compensation scheme, the University argued Jones’s injuries were subject to the “premises line” rule, which extended the course of employment until the employee left the employer’s premises. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for the University. Appellants challenged the trial court’s ruling, claiming that a triable issue remained as to whether the premises line rule applied to Jones’s accident based on a variety of factors. After review, the Court of appeal determined the factors appellants cited raised no question about the rule’s application. Therefore, judgment was affirmed. View "Jones v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
State of Cal. v. Alco Harvest
Plaintiff is a foreign worker hired by defendant Alco Harvesting LLC to work at farms owned by defendant and appellant Betteravia Farms. He later brought employment claims against appellants. Alco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement presented to and signed by Plaintiff at his orientation. The trial court found the agreement void and denied the motion. It considered arbitration a “material term and condition” of Plaintiff’s employment and as such, a job requirement that Alco should have disclosed during the H-2A certification process. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Alco’s arbitration agreement required Plaintiff to forfeit his right to a jury trial in “any claim, dispute and/or controversy that [any] Employee may have against the Company . . . arising from, relating to or having any relationship or connection whatsoever with [or to the] Employee’s . . . employment by, or other association with the Company . . . .” The arbitration agreement also prohibited him from participating in any class action claims against Alco. Thus, the court considered the relinquishing of these rights as “material terms and conditions” of his employment. View "State of Cal. v. Alco Harvest" on Justia Law
Martin v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State University
California State University’s (CSU) hired Plaintiff as the director of university communications of California State University at Northridge’s Marketing and Communications Department (the Department). The VP testified that after speaking with employees while investigating complaints against Plaintiff, he determined that Plaintiff could not be an effective department leader because he disregarded CSU’s direction regarding professionalism; staff could not work with him; and subordinates were intimidated and threatened by him. Plaintiff filed a complaint against CSU alleging gender, race, color, and sexual orientation discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA); race, gender, and sexual orientation harassment; and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination. CSU filed a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication. The trial court entered the order granting summary judgment to Defendants and Plaintiff appealed. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court found that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff’s discrimination claims. The court explained that CSU established a legitimate reason for the termination. Moreover, the court held that Plaintiff failed to submit evidence that creates a dispute of material fact as to pretext. Similarily, the court explained that Plaintiff has not established a dispute of fact regarding whether CSU’s internal investigation was pretextual. The court wrote that Plaintiff failed to produce substantial evidence of any bias in the E&D investigation, and his statistical evidence is not probative of discriminatory motive. Further, Plaintiff’s evidence of CSU’s commitment to diversity does not create a triable issue of discriminatory motive. View "Martin v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State University" on Justia Law
Mattson Technology, Inc. v. Applied Materials, Inc.
Lai, an engineer, had access to Applied’s trade secrets and participated in highly confidential meetings. Mattson, Applied's direct competitor, recruited 17 Applied employees. Lai accepted a job with Mattson. Before his last day at Applied, Lai accessed proprietary information from Applied’s cloud-based storage system and sent e-mails attaching highly confidential Applied documents—many clearly marked as such—to his personal email accounts. He signed a separation certificate stating he had not retained any Applied information and confirmed this in two exit interviews. After starting his new job, Lai logged into his personal email accounts on his Mattson computer. Lai claims never disclosed any Applied information to Mattson. Mattson denies any knowledge of Lai’s actions.Applied sued Mattson and Lai, citing the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (Civ. Code 3426) and breach of Lai’s employment agreement. Lai then deleted the emails he had sent to one account, and, after communicating with Mattson’s lawyers, downloaded a confidential Applied document to his Mattson laptop, deleting it a moment later. Mattson put Lai on leave. cut off his access to his personal email accounts. and sequestered his iPhone and computers. The defendants moved to compel arbitration based on a provision in the Applied-Lai employment contract. The court of appeal affirmed a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendants from accessing or using Applied’s confidential information and an order compelling arbitration as to Lai. Mattson, a non-party, is not entitled to arbitration. The litigation should be stayed pending arbitration. View "Mattson Technology, Inc. v. Applied Materials, Inc." on Justia Law
Arce v. The Ensign Group, Inc.
Plaintiff claimed the nursing facility where she worked as an aide for nine years was so chronically understaffed that she never took a rest break and frequently had to work through her meal breaks. After her termination, Plaintiff brought a claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) against Respondents Southland Management LLC and The Ensign Group Inc. Respondents moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring a representative PAGA action. The trial court granted summary judgment on a different issue, holding that Plaintiff had not offered any “competent proof that one or more cognizable Labor Code violations occurred during her employment in connection with her right to meal and rest periods.” The court entered a judgment of dismissal, and Plaintiff appealed.The Second Appellate District reversed. The court concluded that Respondents did not produce sufficient evidence to meet their initial burden of production on the standing issue, i.e., that Plaintiff had not suffered a Labor Code violation during her employment. The court explained that Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that “scheduling and understaffing issues, high patient-to-nurse ratio, and a heavy workload” made it functionally impossible for her to take meal and rest breaks. Respondents’ moving papers did not address or negate those allegations. Because Respondents did not furnish evidence tending to negate Plaintiff’s allegations that their practices conflicted with their written break policies, they did not meet their initial burden of production, and summary judgment should have been denied. View "Arce v. The Ensign Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Acosta v. MAS Realty, LLC
Plaintiff an electrical technician, was injured when a broken hatch providing access to the roof of a commercial building slammed shut on his back, herniating several of his discs. He sued the building’s owner and management company for negligence and premises liability, contending that defendants had failed either to repair a dangerous condition of which they were aware or to warn him of it. A jury returned a special verdict for Acosta and awarded him damages in excess of $12.6 million. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court explained that a property owner who hires an independent contractor may be liable to the contractor’s employee for injuries sustained on the job only if the owner exercises retained control over any part of the contractor’s work in a manner that affirmatively contributes to the worker’s injuries, or the employee is injured by a concealed hazard that is unknown and not reasonably ascertainable by the contractor. In the present case, Plaintiff does not contend that defendants exercised any retained control over the work site, and the undisputed evidence established that Plaintiff and his employer could reasonably have ascertained the hazardous condition of the site—i.e., that the mechanism designed to hold the roof hatch open was broken and the ladder that provided access to the hatch did not reach all the way to the roof. View "Acosta v. MAS Realty, LLC" on Justia Law
L.O. v. Kilrain
In October 2021, L.O. petitioned for a restraining order against Defendant pursuant to section 527.6. The petition alleged that Defendant had been harassing L.O. because she is transgender by, among other things, posting disturbing YouTube videos about her, using a cell phone to film her, and committing an assault against her. The court granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) pending an evidentiary hearing. Following the hearing at which L.O. and Defendant testified, the trial court found that L.O.’s testimony was “credible” and that Defendant had demonstrated “that he does, in general, have animus towards transgender people.” Accordingly, the court issued a five-year restraining order in favor of L.O. in accordance with section 527.6. The same day that the restraining order was issued on behalf of L.O., the City petitioned for a workplace violence restraining order against Defendant on behalf of five City employees pursuant to section 527.8. Defendant contends that both restraining orders were erroneously issued. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court wrote that it agreed with respondents that Defendant had forfeited his contentions by failing to comply with the applicable rules of appellate procedure. The court explained that Defendant’s briefs do not properly cite the record and are replete with unsupported legal and factual assertions. Because Defendant failed to appropriately cite the record, he forfeited any argument that the challenged orders were erroneously issued. Moreover, the court wrote that Defendant’s briefs do not set forth all the evidence upon which both restraining orders are based. View "L.O. v. Kilrain" on Justia Law
Granite Construction Co. v. CalOSHA
The Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the Division) issued a citation to Granite Construction Company/Granite Industrial, Inc. (Granite Construction) for allegedly violating three regulations relevant here. One was that the company required its employees to wear masks without first providing a medical evaluation to determine their fitness to wear them. And the Division alleged the company violated two other regulations because it exposed its employees to dust containing a harmful fungus— namely, Coccidioides, the fungus that causes Valley fever—and failed to implement adequate measures to limit this exposure. After Granite Construction disputed these allegations, an administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected the Division’s claims. The ALJ reasoned that no credible evidence showed that Granite Construction required its employees to wear masks and no reliable evidence showed that Coccidioides was present at the worksite. But after the Division petitioned for reconsideration, the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (the Board) reversed on these issues and ruled for the Division. The trial court later denied Granite Construction’s petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeal reversed: the Court agreed insufficient evidence showed its employees were exposed to Coccidioides. But the Court rejected its additional claim that it allowed (rather than required) its employees to wear masks, finding sufficient evidence supported the Board’s contrary ruling on this point. View "Granite Construction Co. v. CalOSHA" on Justia Law